Aegean Islands holiday guide

Which island (or islands) are perfect for you?

Choosing from the enormous selection of Aegean Island holidays can be challenging. How do you pick your dream destination – or destinations if you’re island-hopping? The Aegean Islands form a vast group comprising the Cyclades, Dodecanese, North Aegean Islands, Saronic, Sporades, Crete and more. But there’s no need to get overwhelmed. 

We’ve broken it down with the best Aegean Island holidays for every type of getaway. Whether you’re seeking sun, sea and sand, romantic restaurants or adventure, there’s an island in this glorious sea just for you.  

Discover the Aegean Islands this summer

Top destinations in the Aegean Islands

The best Aegean Island holidays for…  

  • Beach breaks: Rhodes, Crete, Skiathos, Paros 
  • Foodies (and wine-lovers): Santorini, Karpathos, Hydra 
  • A romantic escape: Santorini, Crete, Skopelos, Kos 
  • Kids and families: Naxos, Crete, Rhodes, Kos 
  • Wild nights out: Rhodes, Crete 
  • Culture vultures: Rhodes, Kos, Crete, Naxos 
  • Off-the-beaten-track stays: Sifnos, Karpathos, Antiparos, Alonissos 
  • Getting back to nature: Skiathos, Signos, Alonissos, Hydra, Karpathos  

Places in the Aegean Islands

The Cyclades 

The Cyclades are easy to travel between, allowing you to curate the island-hopping getaway of dreams. Some of the most popular are romantic Santorini, famed for sunsets, wine tasting and beautiful architecture, as well as Naxos with its breathtaking hikes, epic mountains and a breezy coast perfect for windsurfing. Nearby Paros and Antiparos are loved for their quieter feel, with a great mix of secluded, sheltered coves and fun kite surfing spots. For an off-the-beaten-track Aegean holiday, check out lesser-known Sifnos, strewn with blue-and-white hillside monasteries, practically empty beaches and authentic tavernas. 

The Sporades 

Skopelos is the green-and-blue isle with a white-walled capital, picturesque monasteries and dreamy beaches, including Mamma Mia filming locations (Kastani, Glysteri and Agios Ioannis). Skiathos has retained the charm of the Greek islands of yesteryear, home to incredible beaches like family-friendly Agia Eleni, Koukounaries Beach and Paralia Elia, backed by dunes and a stunning pine forest. The old town of Skiathos is a maze of irresistible cobbled streets lined with blue-windowed buildings. Boat trips run from both islands to Alonissos, where you can spot Mediterranean monk seals, dolphins and sea birds in the protected marine park. 

The Dodecanese 

Rhodes is arguably the most famous isle, with big historical names like the Palace of the Grand Master, the Street of the Knights, and the site of the Colossus. While those in search of a beach-side party might head for Faliraki, thrill-seekers try watersports at Tsambiki and kite surf at Prasonisiou. Kos is equally packed with antiquities, including the Asklepieion, the Tree of Hippocrates and several dramatic hillside castles. For a unique day out, head to Kastri Island in the bay of Agios Stefanos, a tiny islet with a romantic blue-and-white monastery. Less well-known but just as beautiful, the island of Karpathos is a gem of unspoilt beaches, fantastic windsurfing and traditional villages like Olympos: pastel-toned and postcard-perfect. 

The Saronic Islands 

Hydra is best known among walkers and Athens locals, for whom it’s just a short ferry day trip. On this car-free isle, stroll through the cobbled streets lined with colourful shutters, sleepy cats and overflowing window boxes, then end the day in the marina for a drink at sunset. Find breathtaking beaches like the pebbly paradise of Vlychos, sandy and shallow Mandraki or beautiful Bisti. It’s an island of walking and – since there’s no motorised transport – riding: you’ll see the famous Hydra donkeys on many street corners. It’s also a great place to book diving or snorkelling. 

Cretan and Ionian Sea Islands 

Crete is the biggest of its bunch of islands, and the capital Heraklion is simply stuffed with antiquities, including the nearby Palace of Knossos. Walkers might want to tackle one of the many epic walks around Mount Ida or experience the breathtaking Samariá Gorge. Popular beaches include Seitan Limania, pink-sand Elafonissi Beach and windswept Balos Lagoon. Visit Chania’s postcard-worthy Venetian port or irresistible Rethymno Old Town with its vine-shaded cafés. 

Best time to visit the Aegean Islands

High season for the Aegean Islands is June to September, with temperatures peaking in July and crowds massing in late July and August. For active holidays, spring is perfect, with fantastic sunshine but cooler temperatures and only sporadic rain from March through to May. September to November are blissfully warm, but less crowded than peak season.

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